“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:12–13)
It is February, and that means that our thoughts turn to love. People are always searching for love, aren’t they? But sadly, to borrow the words of country singer Johnny Lee, most people are “Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places. Lookin’ for love in too many faces. Searchin’ their eyes. Lookin’ for traces of what they’re dreaming of.”
When it comes to love, what are you dreaming of? Love is one of those words in the English language that has hundreds of uses. We love our husband or wife. We love our children. We love ice cream. We love that movie. But what is true love anyway?
When I was a senior in high school, the rock band Foreigner released a song that became a big hit. Their song, like Johnny Lee’s country chart topper years earlier, represents the heart cry of millions of people in the world. It goes like this: “I want to know what love is. I want you to show me. I want to feel what love is. I know you can show me. In my life there’s been heartache and pain. I don’t know if I can face it again. Can’t stop now, I’ve traveled so far. To change this lonely life. I gotta take a little time. A little time to think things over. I better read between the lines. I want to know what love is. I want you to show me.”
Do you want to know what love really is? Let’s take a little time to think things over from a biblical perspective. And we don’t have to read between the lines, because the Bible is very clear when it comes to the true meaning of love. Just hours before Jesus Christ was betrayed and arrested in the Garden, He spent some intimate time with His eleven closest friends in an upstairs room in a modest Jerusalem home. In that special moment, He washed their feet, instituted the Lord’s Supper, and gave them words of encouragement to help them face what was to come in the days and weeks ahead.
He reminded them that true love is a mandate, not an emotion. He said, “This is My commandment, that you love one another.” (John 15:12) Love is command, not a convenience. It is active, not passive. We love others because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
If Jesus’ earthly life shows us anything, it shows us that He was never a “Do as I say, not as I do!” sort of leader. He was not asking the disciples, nor us, to do something that He had not already done. Jesus gave us the model of true love. He challenged us to “love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
And just how did He love us? He showed the measure of His love when He laid down His life for us to pay our personal penalty for sin. He said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13) We owed a debt we could never pay because of our sin. That debt is eternal separation from a holy God in a literal place of torment called hell. But Jesus Christ took my place, and your place, on the cross and paid that penalty on our behalf, even though He was perfect and sinless. His love is a limitless, unconditional, and sacrificial love. And that is precisely how we are to love others.
So what is the meaning of love, then? The Greek word love is the word agape. It means, “unconditional affection for another person characterized by a willing forfeiture of your own rights on the other person’s behalf.” Jesus exemplified this definition perfectly when He died and rose again for our sins.
Do you want to know what love is? You must first receive the free gift of eternal life purchased by the loving sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ. You do this by simple faith. Have you trusted in Jesus to forgive your sin and give you eternal life?
Once you have trusted Christ for salvation, only then can you experience true love in this earthly life. Instead of looking to find or receive true love, you will start giving it to others. True love gives because it has received. Find someone to really love today…true, Christ-like love.